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Off-season dedication sparks in-season success for Seabrook, Keith

by Marcie Garcia /

Duncan Keith signs an autograph for a Chicago Blackhawks' fan.
Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are regarded as cornerstones for the rapidly improving defense of the new Chicago Blackhawks. It almost sounds like a promising plotline of a movie: A comeback story about the long, cold winters of a legendary franchise finally triumphing in the big, bad Western Conference.

It’s still too early to tell how the movie will end, but with characters like Seabrook and Keith, a heroic ending could well be in the cards.

Seabrook and Keith, who have been the team’s rock-solid defensive pair since their NHL debuts during the 2005-06 season, have had starring roles in the team’s early success this year.

The players share time on the Chicago defense and each stresses the importance of maintaining conditioning and strength training in the summer, long before the thought of training camp creeps into summertime thoughts.

While most young men enjoy leisurely activities like basking on a white-sanded beach or a night out on the town during the hot summer months, Seabrook and Keith are pounding weights and pedals, instead of beers.

“My summer pretty much consists of training and getting ready for the season and taking care of myself,” says Seabrook, 22. “But what is really fun for me is riding road bikes. I rode just about every day this past summer.”

Seabrook, Chicago’s first-round draft pick, 14th overall, in 2003, spent most of his summer in Vancouver and enjoyed the fresh mountain air that accompanied his trail rides. One of his favorite paths was trekking upward through Cypress Hills, a region of hills located in southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta. Its highest point stands 4,816 feet.

“We rode up Cypress Hills this year, so that was exciting,” he says. “Back home, I go by myself just around the house, but every year we have a group that we train with and we go up to Cypress or Stanley Park and ride around. “

Seabrook enjoys biking with Troy Brower, Chicago’s seventh-round draft pick, No. 214, in the 2004 Entry Draft and a fellow British Columbia resident. Seabrook’s younger brother, Keith, a defenseman for the Calgary Hitmen, also is a regular rider, as well as A.J. Baines, a former Chicago teammate.

“On average we go 20-30 miles a day, and on Cypress sometimes upwards of 100-mile rides, but there are different paths that we take, so it varies,” says Seabrook, who rides Cannondale and Perello bikes.

“I love getting out there and away from the gym, get some fresh air. It’s beautiful. And it seems easier if you’re riding in the outdoors for an hour because it seems like 20 minutes, but if you ride for 20 minutes in the gym, it feels like an hour. It’s just nice to get out there.

And it helps you think and clear your head out there, too.”

Keith, 24, also spends his summers British Columbia, where you can catch him on top of a pal’s speedboat listening to metal bands Godsmack and Disturbed, or fishing – a pastime that stems back to his childhood in Fort Francis, Ont. -- his home until he turned 14. But like Seabrook and his passion for biking, Keith doesn’t feel weightlifting is a chore, more a lifestyle, which he is happy to embrace.

“In the summer I like to take some time off and relax a little bit, but nowadays you jump into training right away and try to improve every summer,” Keith said. “In the off-season, something that I do a lot of is weightlifting and conditioning, and lucky for me, I enjoy it. It’s just a lifestyle for me. It gets you started in your day.”

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith celebrate a goal versus the Detroit Red Wings Oct. 12, 2007.

Keith has learned which physical workouts work best for him. Years of working with professional trainers in his hockey career has allowed Keith to create a custom-made regimen that includes free weights, a physio ball and squats. Lots of squats.

“I kind of do my own thing that I’ve done for a while that I’ve learned from different trainers over the years,” Keith says. “But I stick with what helps me and implement what I can from what I’ve learned.”

Keith, coming off a career high of 29 assists and 31 points last season, is up around 8 a.m. on summer mornings, grabs a quick bite and heads to the gym, where he makes himself useful for 2-1/2 hours. Keith works at strengthening his core and legs to promote a steady balance on the ice, but what Keith won’t have any part of is any type of workout machine.

But just because he prefers the old fashioned way of pumping iron, it doesn’t mean he’s opposed to trying something new-age.

“Over the years, I kind of got into yoga a little bit,” he says, “but a lot of my stuff I do with my legs already involves stretching your muscles and flexibility with the weights. I still do it a little bit of yoga, but not as much as I should.”

Keith most likely will stick to dumbbells, in which he has repped four sets of five, using 201 pounds of weight. Yet he says he’s done nothing “too” crazy.

It’s no secret the Blackhawks are creating a stir throughout the NHL. Their come-from-behind, edge-of-your-seat victories have been hot water-cooler topics.

The starring talents of Jonathan Toews (third-overall pick, 2006) and Patrick Kane (first overall selection in 2007) are living up to expectations, but the Hawks aren’t riding on any one player’s coattails. They’re an ensemble cast.

Seabrook and Keith clearly are huge parts of that ensemble cast. Their commitment to their roles is helping Chicago turn the corner and soon author the stunning final scene in the renaissance plotline.

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